Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Sand, Sea + Charades: Summer in South Walton

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SVV and I returned to Tennessee last week after an uber-relaxing eight-day vacation with my family. Although you might not actually believe me—I know, I know, you all think that all I do is vacation for a living (news flash: not true!)—it’s the first vacation time I’ve taken since we were in Florida in early-March, and even then, I spent the majority of my time inside on the computer working on various projects.

As it turns out, the worst part of being self-employed is that you can never really set up an auto-response to say, “I will be out of the office on vacation. Please e-mail Penelope with any immediate questions or problems, and I’ll get back to you when I return.” No, that all falls on you. And as such, you’re never ACTUALLY out of the office. I won’t say I completely logged offline this time either—I spent much of my sunning hours responded to work emails on my iPhone—but I did spend a solid couple of hours working on my tan daily and managed to whittle down my reading list marginally (Gone Girl, An Abundance of Katherines, Gold).

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

So why Florida again? Well, my cousin Andrew is an ER doctor and relocated to Destin with his lovely wife Kelly from Birmingham last month. Naturally, our family saw this with stars in their eyes: VACATION SPOT! We’ve been vacationing in South Walton since I was 12 years old—and in Orlando all the years before that—and often with Andrew, his twin Rebecca and their big brother John. We’ve always been a tight-knit clan.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

We’ve also had such success vacationing with our pals Tom and Ginny in the past that we thought we should make this a ritual. So the two of them, their daughter Mallory and her son Gabe joined SVV, my sister Kari, my mom, my dad and me in a four-bedroom condo just a couple miles from Seaside. It was glorious. In fact, they all stayed an extra week and just returned yesterday—this is me being green with envy—and instead of being a spoiled brat about the fact that they got two fantastic weeks while SVV and I have to return for meetings and the like, I’m just going to look at it like this: We had eight amazing days in a gorgeous spot with fantastic people. And really, you can’t beat that.

I often get asked “so where does a travel writer go on vacation? What does she do?” Well, I can’t speak for all of my kind, but I will reveal that here’s what a typical vacation with the Lunas & Co. looks like:

Bourbon. A lot of it. Hey, we’re a lot of things, but we’re still Southern at the core.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Game nights. Balderdash used to be our game of choice; these days, it’s Cranium for the pure comic value.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

One hysterical father. Yes, he bought this monkey shirt at Wal-Mart just for the occasion.

Family vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Game nights and bourbon (for us; scotch for him) with one hysterical father.

Golf (for the men). No big surprise, but the majority of their vacation centered upon being out on the links.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Catching up with old friends (for the girls). One of my dearest childhood pals, Andrea, is a hotshot lawyer in Florida, so it’s always a treat when her work schedules allows her a night out with us.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Quality time with the pooch. Ella loves a vacation as much as the next pup.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Quality time with the sister. She starts work as a CPA for a Big Four firm in Charlotte soon, so we have to enjoy her while we can!

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Really cute kids. I mean, really, they don’t get more precious (or genius) than these two little girls.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Cousins’ weekend. Granddaddy was the only “adult” allowed to stick around for the fun. And OK, that too had game nights and bourbon.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Neon tanks, too! As my cousin John would say, they’re “a lifestyle.”

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Cabana boys in neon tanks. One being my husband, the other three my cousins. Still, beggars can’t be choosers.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

A lot of time spent keeping cool in the water.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

And one really kick-ass family.

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Because, at the end of the day, that’s what matters most, right?

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

Florida vacation | Camels & Chocolate

COMMENTS
  • August 7, 2012

    Gorgeous pics of such precious family time! Little Ella makes my heart smile 🙂

    • August 7, 2012

      As she does us on a daily basis! Scott refuses to leave her at home anymore, so while all of my parents’ six dogs were stuck in Tennessee for the two weeks, Ella got to go on her first Florida vacation =)

  • August 7, 2012
    SVV

    Bikini. Babe(s).

    • August 7, 2012

      Don’t hold your breath: Not sure you’ll ever see a picture of this babe in a bikini anywhere on le blog!

  • August 7, 2012
    Mister Sister

    Nobody par-tays like the Housholder clan!!

    • August 13, 2012

      Do you think it’s the Dede or the Big Daddy in us?

  • August 7, 2012
    mom

    ahem…

  • August 7, 2012
    Gman

    Loved the pictures of your dad!! He must be an awesome fellow!

    • August 7, 2012

      Best-looking guy I know!

      • August 7, 2012

        Other than Scott, of course…oops =)

  • August 7, 2012

    What a beautiful family! Reminds me of my childhood holidays: days spent by the lake, nights sitting by campfires, with my dad telling stories and me eating smores. 🙂

    • August 7, 2012

      S’mores–now that’s what #cousinsweekend was missing! Ah well, next year =)

  • August 7, 2012
    JeJe

    What beautiful children! And your cousins, so very handsome and normal looking. Wish I belonged to a family like that. You are so lucky!

  • August 7, 2012

    Looks like a blast! And gorg picture of little miss up there. Also, I loved following all the bourbon shenanigans on Instagram 🙂

    • August 7, 2012

      I feel like Marg and McK and LG would all be fast friends. They’ve all got just the right amount of sass!

  • August 7, 2012

    absolutely love this! your family trips (this one and one’s in the past) have actually inspired me to do something with my own crew and we have begun the process of planning a gulf getaway for a week next spring. we did it frequently when i was a kid but it all stopped once people started entering high school. such a pity! glad you had a little R&R. looks like fun!

    • August 13, 2012

      I absolutely love the Gulf, and the place we stayed was very charming. If you need any recs, feel free to email me! I’ll tell you the places that I won’t put online (for fear that they’ll get “too” popular like Sandestin)!

  • August 7, 2012
    Briel K.

    Good times!

    I love the photo of the little girl , Florida30. Great one!

    What did you think of Gone Girl (crazy!) and An Abundance of Katherine’s (ok, not my fave book by him). How was Gold? I read Divergent and Insurgent on my vacation and loved them!

    • August 7, 2012

      OK…

      An Abundance of Katherines. Meh. I like the premise and the message, but I think it was the weakest of the three I’ve read of his. And I felt like this one actually was written more for teens (the whole underlying moral about “mattering” and such).

      Gone Girl. LOVED. The ending was wow-wow-wow.

      Gold. Also didn’t love it. The writing was strong, the story was interesting (the Olympics part at least), but overall, I felt the plot was quite weak.

      In keeping with the not-loving books theme, were you the one who said you didn’t like Falling Together? At 30 percent, I finally had to quit it, it was THAT BAD.

      I’m back to Tropper (Book of Joe) now.

      • August 7, 2012
        Briel K.

        Yeah I was the one who didn’t like Falling Together. So disappointing after loving her other two!

        I just read Book of Joe too. I picked it up in Seattle after finishing the Divergent books. I really liked it! My next Jonathan Tropper book will be Everything Changes. Have you read that one? I also have The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach to read.

        • August 8, 2012

          Everything Changes is excellent. It’s actually the only Tropper book I’ve read so far.

          The Art of Fielding has probably been the most frequently suggested book rec I’ve gotten this year. I should bump it up on the list.

          • August 9, 2012

            Ooh, Gone Girl and Gold are both on my list! An Abundance of Katherines HAD been on there (just finished Looking for Alaska, which I LOVED) but I’m thinking maybe I’ll take it off now! Since we basically seem to be reading the same four authors, I’ll also say that I thought Book of Joe was QUITE good, but very similar to This Is Where I Leave You, which I enjoyed more, and How To Talk To A Widower, which I enjoyed about the same amount (I’m coming to realize that he can be just the teensiest bit formulaic, much as I love him.) Everything Changes is the only Tropper book I haven’t read yet, but now I need to so we can compare!

            • August 9, 2012

              And you and Jeanie seem to have the same reading tastes, as well, as she said while she really liked Book of Joe, it was her least favorite of Tropper’s books. Everything Changes is the only one I have to compare it too, but thanks to a shared Kindle account with my mom, I do have This Is Where I Leave You and How to Talk to a Widower in my queue already.

              In terms of John Green, apparently Will Grayson, Will Grayson is meant to be a lot better than Katherines. Friends of mine who were lit majors swear I will love it. And I did adore Fault and Looking for Alaska immensely. An Abundance of Katherines was fun in its quirks and creativity, but overall, I felt like it was more apt for high schoolers (and this from a girl who pretty much only reads YA these days!).

  • August 7, 2012

    This is a riot. We just finished a week’s worth of wedding activities surrounded by family. We took a total of 4 (FOUR!!!) pictures. Not because we didn’t want to – but because we were lame. And distracted.

    I’m inspired by your ability to pull it together to fully document everything.

    • August 7, 2012

      If you only knew how many pictures I actually took (hint: it was upward of 2,000). I blame the bourbon. It’s always the Bulleit’s fault.

  • August 7, 2012

    I love this! I’ve got to get my cousin’s together and have a blowout. Love the neon tanks!

    • August 7, 2012

      Great idea for a family photo, right? John gets all the credit for the tanks =)

  • August 7, 2012

    Sounds like a great family vacation – glad you had time to relax a bit and make some progress on your reading list! I’m almost finished reading Gold as well – it’s quite good but not as good as Little Bee, in my opinion. Looking forward to reading your posts from Scotland and Ireland – have an amazing time!!

    • August 7, 2012

      Agreed, fully. I actually didn’t love it, though I think Cleave’s writing is always solid. But I’m not going to ruin anything for you until you’re finished with it…

  • August 8, 2012

    I really think I love your family! Looks like you guys know how to have a good time (and get along). And could those little girls be any more precious … LOVE that underwater shot – too cute! I’m sending adoption papers today – so you can adopt my family and make us southern 🙂

    • August 8, 2012

      I really think Mayhem ranks up there with Margaret and McKayla as my favorite kids ever. I can only imagine the chaos that would ensue were we to get those three together.

      We would love to have you as part of our family! My mom would absolutely adore you and insist on that adoption =)

  • August 8, 2012

    such a lovely family holiday! the little girls are just too precious! I am from Scotland, so if you want any tips on where to go, I would be more than willing to let you know!!

    also check out http://www.amazine.com which has many collages on travel, such as this one i created about Madrid, Spain 🙂

    http://www.amazine.com/story/400386

    • August 9, 2012

      Oh, thank you, Ally! I’ll definitely check out your site. I studied abroad in Edinburgh in 2003 but haven’t been back in awhile. We’re thinking EDI (St. Andrew’s day trip)–>Fort William/Cairngorms–>Skye–>Inverness/Aviemore–>EDI over nine days. Any thoughts on that? Or favorite places in Skye? I’ve never actually been there despite my repeat visits to Scotland since living there.

  • August 8, 2012

    Just got back from a family reunion in Boston and I really enjoyed reading your blog post about your visit to Florida. The pictures are a lot of fun and remind me of our family vacation. Good times!

    • August 9, 2012

      Family reunions are the best! All growing up as a kid, we had one in Paris, Tennessee with all of my granddad’s family (50+) every other August and one with my grandmother’s family (nearly the same amount of people) in the in-between years. Those are some of my greatest childhood reunions. I’m glad us cousins have kept it up as adults on a smaller scale! We’re already planning where #cousinsweekend2013 is going to be held…

      • August 9, 2012

        Any suggestions for Florida destinations that are a bit off the beaten path? I am researching for a television program I am working on called Family Travel with Colleen Kelly that will air on PBS starting Spring 2013. Suggestions for best times to visit is also helpful. Thank you!

        • August 9, 2012

          I really like Blue Mountain Beach (very quiet and beaches are quite empty), as well as Santa Rosa Beach (a bit more mainstream), about 15 miles east of Destin and 30 miles west of PCB. They’re great for families and many of the areas are protected so they’ll never be overdeveloped like, say, a Seaside or Sandestin.

          • August 10, 2012

            Perfect! Just the kind of information I was looking for. Thanks for the help. If we are in Florida to shoot in your area, perhaps your family would like to be part of the show! We’ll keep in touch. All the best.

            • August 10, 2012

              Hi Tricia!
              I live in the Seaside area, have a beach house in Miramar Beach (Sandestin area) and Pensacola. If you need any assistance I too would be happy to help.- Susan info@30AEATS.com.

              Kristin! Love the photos! Looks like you were up by my beach house having a blast! My hubs is a surgeon in Pcola and Destin, so he will probably be running into your cousin! Small world! Will do your guest post asap! Thanks, and keep in touch! Would love to take you to lunch next time you are in town if you can break away!

  • August 8, 2012

    You have the cutest family EVER (besides mine, of course). 🙂

    • August 9, 2012

      Of course! =) Though I do think Emily and McKayla would get a long quite well–the Dangerous Duo.

  • August 9, 2012
    Haidang

    “Lunas and Co” ;- ) Really great photos- fun how youre changing them up and doing fish eyes + different angles/lenses! God 1st Family 2nd, Amen

    • August 9, 2012

      That would be due to a mixture of shots from my iPhone, GoPro, Canon 24-105mm, Canon fisheye and Canon 10-20mm!

      • August 9, 2012
        Haidang

        So, you are one of those who carry those large camera backpacks around ;- ) and I am one of those who always ask the photographer, do you want a photo? let me try out this professional looking Canon…; -)

        • August 9, 2012

          You nailed it! Actually, our camera backpack has gotten so heavy that I was babysitting a friend’s six year old, and he couldn’t even lift it! And he is *very* athletic!

          • August 9, 2012
            Haidang

            ive met your *people* around the world, but i only follow one particular person’s blog ;- )

  • August 9, 2012

    Family vacations are the best! Looks like such a great time. And I love the neon shirts!

    • August 13, 2012

      Now I’ve just got to figure out when I’m ever going to need this neon tank again, ha.

  • August 9, 2012

    How fun! My family loves board games although we haven’t done a big family vacation in years. I also just noticed that SVV wears a lot of plaid shorts!

  • August 10, 2012

    woww. great job on getting everyone to go on this vacation! Great pictures too!

    • August 13, 2012

      The logistics were tough to coordinate, but in the end, we all made it happen!

  • August 11, 2012

    The pictures, and your family, look like so.much.fun! My family is made up of different stuff, treasure yours, they are special 🙂

    PS: Cierra says “woof”. She travels everywhere I go.

    • August 13, 2012

      They are indeed! I’m just lucky that the five of us cousins grew up so close and continued that relationship into adulthood. They are some of the coolest people I’ve ever known–I think I lucked out in the family department!

      Woof back to Cierra!

  • August 13, 2012

    Looks amazing and just reminds me that I REALLY need to get myself to a beach before the summer is over!

  • August 21, 2012

    one great family vacation, the beach and all activities you did are really amazing and I can see that everybody did enjoyed and had fun. It really reminds me to have a break from work and unwind with my family.

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